And while I imagined that Zimbabwe was radically different from suburban Pennsylvania, where I grew up, I had no idea how much.My knowledge of Africa consisted of what I had seen in the magazines my mother subscribed to for our family.
But as she began to correspond with Martin Ganda, who lived in Zimbabwe with his family, she had no idea the extent to which that correspondence would change both of their lives.Like me, Carola was tall and blond, but when I first met her, she was wearing cut‑off jean shorts and dark brown knee socks with sandals. She also spoke English with a harsh‑sounding accent, like she was always angry.She ate sharp cheese and dark bread for breakfast, and liked chocolate with hazelnuts, and salty black licorice—nothing like the Hershey’s Kisses and Starburst sweets I had grown up with.I told her about my pen pal assignment.“That’s so cool,” she said. ”It was a good question: I had no idea what to write or where to start.I thought about it as the bus pulled out of the school driveway.Halloween isn’t until October.”That trip opened my eyes to other ways of living beyond my small town.
Everything and everyone in Hatfield felt so familiar—even a little boring. Lauren picked Germany, as did many other kids in our class who had some ancestral connection.
I’d never imagined traveling to Africa, or even wondered what life must be like there. Before then, I was a typical twelve‑year‑old American girl, far more interested in what I should wear to school than what I might learn there.
I had no idea, and that was all the more exciting—like the beginning of an adventure.“That’s the one I want,” I said. I assumed most kids, regardless of where they lived, had lives similar to mine.
I loved looking at the colorful photos of tribal people who wore face paint, loincloths, and beads. I was born and raised in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, a small middle‑class town forty miles outside Philadelphia. They met in elementary school but didn’t start dating until college.
I didn’t think my pen pal would dress like that, but I had no idea what kids in Africa wore. After they got married, they moved to neighboring Lansdale, which was more affordable than Hatfield. By the time I came around five years later, they had moved back to Hatfield and bought the home they still live in today.
Since we did not know who would be receiving our letters, Mrs. I was actually excited about homework, maybe for the first time ever.